Las Vegas City Council Approves WJC Plans

The Las Vegas City Council has given its approval of the World Jewelry Center, a proposed 5.4-acre development dedicated to the international jewelry industry.

During a session held Jan. 9, the council voted in favor of the center’s Disposition and Development Agreement, Owner Participation Agreement, and related documents. This means that project can proceed as planned, including the 50-plus story office tower, which will likely be the highest building in the desert city.

“We appreciate the cooperative efforts of city officials and the Las Vegas City Council’s approvals of our business terms, which will propel our project forward,” said Robert Zarnegin, president and chief executive officer of Probity International Corp., the company that is developing the site.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman, applauded the council’s decision. He said the 1.1 million-square-foot project, will help diversify the economy, which is now depended on gaming and tourism, and is a one of the elements in the renovation of a barren piece of land in the downtown section of the city, known as Union Park.

“This will be an important part of Union Park, along with the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute, the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, the Charlie Palmer Hotel, and the Access Medical-Kimpton Hotel projects, that together will create an exciting experience for everyone who visits or does business there,” he said following the vote.

“This will be a one-of-a-kind jewelry industry hub in the western hemisphere,” added Bill Boyajian, WJC managing director.

The WJC trade tower, designed by Altoon + Porter Architects, LLP, will contain office “condominiums” of more than 700,000 square feet and owned by several hundred companies from around the globe. WJC businesses will have access to grading labs, an educational center, meeting facilities, and exhibition space. There will also be banking facilities, an advanced security system, restaurants, an exclusive private club, and fitness facilities.

The top floors will be reserved for some 90 “ultra-luxury” residential condominiums with a dedicated elevator system.

One of the major business attractions of the WJC, is its future designation as a “Foreign Trade Zone.” This means that foreign companies will not pay a duty for products shipped into the U.S. until they are sold.

The plans also include an adjacent three-story building that will house retail spaces and a gem museum. It is being planned as a retail destination and will feature jewelry from retailers representing approximately 20 countries. Retail is expected to account for 90,000 square feet of the 125,000 square-foot building.

The DDA outlines the requirements and conditions for purchasing the land and build the World Jewelry Center. The OPA sets forth the terms under which the developer and the City Redevelopment Agency will share in property tax revenues generated by the WJC over the next 20 years.

WJC officials recently said that the WJC completion date has been pushed back from mid-2010 to the second half of 2011.